Updated November 2021

If you or a loved one are headed off to college for the first time, there’s probably a lot on your mind: Buying textbooks, furnishing a dorm room, and adjusting to new courses, to name a few.

But before you begin this new chapter, it’s important to protect yourself and those around you by getting your required college vaccinations. The vaccines you need for college are critical in the prevention of disease — particularly if you’ll be living in close quarters with others.

Remember, you should always make an appointment with your doctor before starting college. Contact Children’s Community Pediatrics today for more information. You should also check in with your college to learn more about vaccines for college.

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What to Know Before You Go: Vaccines for College

1. COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19, a disease caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has caused hundreds of millions of infections and millions of deaths worldwide. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized three COVID-19 vaccines, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J).

The vaccines are safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. They are especially effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19.

Americans 5 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Some colleges are requiring students to get the vaccine before returning to campus.

The vaccine is widely available. Visit to schedule a vaccination appointment with UPMC.

2. Meningococcal conjugate booster

First-year college students and students who live on campus are most at risk for the disease that causes meningitis, a deadly inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Living in close proximity to others promotes the spread of the disease.

Many students are required to receive at least one dose of the meningococcal vaccine before attending college, though in some cases a second dose may be required. Students should talk to their health care provider to learn more about their required vaccines.


3. Human papillomavirus (HPV)

The HPV vaccine is typically offered to children age 11 or 12. But if your college student has not yet received these three-shot vaccine series, the beginning of college presents a good opportunity.

The HPV shot prevents four strains of a virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer. The series is administered over a period of nine months.

4. Seasonal flu shot

The flu is one of the most deadly diseases, responsible for thousands of deaths each year, as well as days of missed work and hospitalizations. Because the flu season is active from October to May, exactly the time that most universities are in session, a flu shot can be an important way to protect your student from a severe case of the flu.

Each flu season is different, so it’s essential to get a new flu shot each year to be updated on the flu virus that is going around that season.

RELATED: Know Your Flu Shot Facts

5. Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, accellular pertussis)

This vaccine protects against three highly serious conditions. Fortunately, vaccines have made diphtheria uncommon in the United States, while tetanus is caused by puncture wounds from environmental sources.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, however, is a severe cough that can last months or weeks. This serious ailment can cause fractured ribs, fainting, and pneumonia. For young children and infants, whooping cough can be fatal.

Many doctors recommend a booster of the TDAP vaccine before heading off to college.

6. Vaccines for traveling

If your student plans on traveling abroad, he or she should consider several vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website can help you choose the right vaccine or the country or part of the world you’re visiting, how long you’ll be staying, as well as the underlying medical conditions you may have.

About Pediatrics

From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.